About the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot

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View of Mt. Mabu region (Photo: Julian Bayliss)

The Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot was first recognized as globally important for species conservation by Mittermeier et al. (2004) when the global hotspot total was raised from 25 to 34 (now 36), following a reappraisal in light of additional data. One of the results of this reappraisal was to divide the original Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya (EACF) Hotspot between two newly defined hotspots—the Eastern Afromontane and the Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa. The Eastern Arc Mountains were thus absorbed into a much larger hotspot, while the Coastal Forests Hotspot was expanded to Somalia and Mozambique.

The hotspot comprises a discontinuous and divided chain of roughly four ranges of mountains.

These ranges start in the north with the Asir Mountains of Saudi Arabia and the highlands of Yemen.

Below these, the Ethiopian and Arabian Peninsula highlands and mountains, which split approximately 13 million years ago into three parts to produce the Great Rift Valley through a rifting process as the African continental crust pulled apart.

Southeast of the ancient Ethiopian and Albertine massifs, more recent volcanic activity has produced the mountains of the Kenyan and Tanzanian highlands (Mounts Kilimanjaro, Meru, Kenya and Elgon, and the Aberdare range).

Farther south, the Eastern Arc and Southern Rift mountains form another ancient massif, running from the Taita Hills in Kenya through the Eastern Arc in Tanzania to Mounts Ntchisi and Mulanje in Malawi.

Farther outliers of the Eastern Afromontane, known here as the Southern Montane Islands, are found in the Chimanimani highlands of eastern Zimbabwe, Mounts Gorongosa, Namuli, Mabu and Chiperone in Mozambique, and the Mafinga Mountains that straddle the Malawi-Zambia border.

Of the 10,856 species identified in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot, almost a third (30.8 percent) are endemic.

The following table shows species diversity and endemism in the hotspot:  


Taxonomic Group

Number of Species

Number of Endemic Species







Freshwater Fishes












All Taxa




The profiling exercise made it clear that development was a key issue for long term, sustainable protection of biodiversity in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot. This is due to the main causes of biodiversity degradation being directly linked to inappropriate

development projects for local communities, and because the future of conservation lies in the decisions that are going to be made in the coming years in terms of development policies by the national governments, regional entities and to a certain extent by external agents such as donors (whose large investments still influence development directions), international foundations and organizations, or private investors from developed and emergent countries. At the same time, the profiling exercise highlighted a lack of understanding of the importance of biodiversity on the part of decision makers, and also a lack of dialogue and coordination between stakeholders that have an obvious interest in enhanced coordination, including NGOs from both the conservation and the development worlds.

CEPF's niche in the Eastern Afromontane Hotspot will be to enable civil society to have a more prominent role into driving development in a more biodiversity-friendly direction.​​​​


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